95th FGS holds first weapons load competition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tiffany Del Oso
  • 325 Fighter Wing Public Affairs

 As the 325th Fighter Wing continues to build the first of three combat coded fighter squadrons, it was only a matter of time before the 325th Maintenance Group hosted its first load crew competition, which took place Feb. 2.

Load crew competitions are held across the Air Force, continuing a rich weapons tradition that started at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, in 1958. During the competition, weapons specialist Airmen are evaluated on their dress and appearance in accordance with Air Force Instruction 36-2903, textbook knowledge of the career field, and a physical proficiency weapons load.

“The competitions are a good way to blow off some steam and they’re very competitive,” said Senior Master Sgt. Emily Pa’akaula, 325th Maintenance Group weapons standardization superintendent. “Even though we are only competing with the 95th [Fighter Generation Squadron] right now, in the future, we’ll be able to compete with reserve units, and even the Emerald Coast competition that includes Eglin [AFB] and Hurlburt Field.”

Over the last year, the 95th FGS weapons Airmen have strived to earn and maintain the necessary certifications to ensure mission success across the reactivated 95th Fighter Squadron. Each crew undergoes a Minimum Required Proficiency Load each month, where they are evaluated on their reliability, proficiency and safety when performing weapons loads.

According to Pa’akaula, crews 95-01 and 95-04 have come through the last quarter with zero MRPL write ups, qualifying them to compete against each other in the competition.

“This is a team sport and I think it really depends on the chemistry between yourself and your crew members,” said Staff Sgt. Rhio Rendon-Rivera, 95th FGS weapons load crew chief of team 95-04. “I could be good, but if my team is struggling then I have to be able to support them and push them through whatever the problem is.”

Each team consists of three Airmen: a weapons load crew chief, a person in charge of equipment and someone who drives the bomb-lift truck and inspects the munitions.

During this competition, both teams were tasked with loading an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and a GBU-31V1 joint direct attack munition onto an F-35A Lightning II aircraft in the fastest time possible, and with the least deficiencies. Crew 95-01 finished first with a final time of 19:42.

“The 95th [FGS]s first load competition [is a] pace setting experience for how the rest of the load competitions are going to be,” said Airman 1st Class Kaden Anderson-Schafer, 95th FGS weapons load crew member on team 95-01. “We are the guinea pigs of what [the 95th FGS] will expect in the future.”

The first load crew competition showcased the skills and teamwork between the competing 95th FGS Airmen and set an initial standard of aiming high and ensuring excellence as the ‘Installation of the Future’ continues to build its combat ready fleet.